A rousing trackwork gallop at Te Rapa on Tuesday has convinced Hamilton trainers Graeme and Debbie Rogerson that their stable star Sharp ‘N’ Smart is at the top of his game leading into his first Group One assignment of the season.
Sharp ‘N’ Smart will resume in the weight-for-age Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on Saturday, the three-time Group One winner beginning a new campaign at a distance short of his best.
But despite meeting a stellar field at a sprint trip with their middle-distance star, the Rogersons were upbeat about his prospects heading into the weekend.
Much of that stemmed from a superb final gallop at Te Rapa, where Sharp ‘N’ Sharp skipped over 1200m, the last 1000m in company with Listed El Roca Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) candidate Solidify.
“His work, you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Graeme Rogerson said.
“Every time you ask him for something, he’ll give you that little bit more. He thinks he’s good in everything he does. He’s certainly got the ability.”
A winner of six of his 12 starts, Redwood four-year-old Sharp ‘N’ Smart won fresh-up over 1400m at Ruakaka on the corresponding weekend 12 months ago, following that effort with wins in the Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm and Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
After Group One second placings in the Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington and Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham, Sharp ‘N’ Smart added further Group One success at his next two starts, in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and New Zealand Derby (2400m), both at Te Rapa.
While he is having his first start as a four-year-old at weight-for-age, Rogerson pointed out that Sharp ‘N’ Smart was already a proven Group One weight-for-age winner and the highest-rated horse in the Tarzino.
“If it was a handicap, he’d be giving them weight. Whatever he does, he’s going to get better,” Rogerson said.
“After this he’ll definitely run in the mile (Group 1 Arrowfield Stud Stakes at Hastings on September 30) then we’ll work out the next step.”
Among those options are the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings, the Group 1 AUD$5 million King Charles III Stakes (1600m) at Randwick or the Group 1 AUD$1 million Might And Power Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield all on October 14, two weeks before a possible tilt at the Group 1 AUD$5 million Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley.
The Rogersons have the Group1 AUD$8 million Melbourne Cup (3200m) firmly in their sights as his spring target.
With Sharp ‘N’ Smart’s regular New Zealand rider Ryan Elliot opting to ride Legarto in the Tarzino Trophy, two-time premier jockey Michael McNab takes the ride for the first time.
McNab was aboard Sharp ‘N’ Smart for an exhibition gallop at Te Rapa earlier this month and again for his trackwork on Tuesday.
“He’s moving well, he worked well. He felt really good,” McNab said after that gallop.
“He’s got all the class and all the right attributes. It’s just whether he’s going to be sharp enough but off his work this morning, I can’t see why he wouldn’t be right in it.”
Solidify proved he was in the right order to continue his winning form at Hastings too.
A winner of three of his six starts, Redwood colt Solidify resumed with a gritty win over 1100m at Taupo last month, showing he had taken no harm from two torrid races in roughly-run Brisbane two-year-old features over winter.
“His experience in Queensland when he got flattened twice has made him a little bit scared, but the trip wouldn’t have done him any harm anyway,” Rogerson said.
“He’s a genuine Classic horse. He’s got a shadow roll on for Saturday. We were going to put him in visor blinkers but Ryan wants to wait till the Hawke’s Bay Guineas before we use them.
“He’s going to make a good horse, Solidify, but he’s just got to put it all together. He’s got the ability and he’s certainly got a lot of improvement in him.”
Safely through the Sir Colin Meads Trophy and the Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) at Hastings on September 30, Solidify will chase Group One success in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 11.
Success in what will be the 100th Group One race held at Riccarton would be fitting for Rogerson, who produced Teddy Doon to win the first Group One race at the track in the 1978 2000 Guineas.
The Rogersons other runners at Hastings on Saturday are Brookbourne, Infer and Mr Universe, while Enterprise Gem, Gibraltar Rising and Golden Hue are slated to race at Ruakaka.